Comment Moderation and Spam Stats

CanOSpamDue to the massive volume of spam and what is getting through Akismet I have resorted to turning on comment moderation. From now on if you have had a previous comment on the blog it should post without any issues. But if this is the first time you have made a comment it will be moderated.

It would seem the spammers are on the war path tonight as my inbox is getting hammered with comments. A lot of comments have been flagged as possible spam and require moderation. But some of it is breaking through. Hopefully Akismet will learn the new rules soon and it will ease up. I don’t think this is a limitation of Akismet so much as the spam is becoming more sophisticated.

Foe example last week I had a spam comment slip through. The reason it got through was the fact that the comment was attached to the URL of an image that was associated with the post. So when I viewed the comment I got the blog entry with no text just the image with the spam. Nasty. I advised WordPress about it and they have responded saying that it is a new type of spam that they are aware of and to submit it to Akismet as such. Anyone else seen this type of comment spam?

I was hoping that I would not have to moderate comments as it takes time and is a bummer for legitimate commenter’s. But I have implemented this on the podcast blog and readers don’t seem to mind. I will endeavour to approve comments as soon as I can if it is any consolation. This measure might just decrease the attractiveness of this blog as a target.

To put the spam issue into perspective: it took from Feburary 2006 until the 9th of December to reach 10,000 spam comments caught by Akismet. Compare that with the fact that it just reach 20,369 today the 3rd of February 2007. Yes it doubled in about a month!

Comment Armageddon

So there I was catching up on some RSS feeds that I had missed over the Christmas New Year break. I made an unexpected find while I was doing that. Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch is a respected authority in Web 2.0 circles as far as covering new start-ups and the culture of the Internet and technology news. But this post caused some controversy.

TechCrunch covered a website that was a social network for budding photographers. So what you might say. Well this is a social network for amateur pornography. I have not linked to the site covered because that is not what this post is about. Arrington covers the site in a very matter-of-fact way that you would expect. It would seem that his readers don’t appreciate it, generally. True this is not the sort of thing that TechCrunch usually covers and that might be why there was the reaction that there was. Still not sure it was worthy of the reaction of some.

The real action here is the comments. There are no less than 191 comments at the time of this post. It is the most entertaining run of comments that I have read in a long time. Like fies to a dead cow everyone turns up for a go. It has everything from name calling to preaching doom and gloom. There are “hissy” fits and passionate pleas. Everything, you name it you will find it here.

What’s more the names read like a who’s who of the blogosphere. Featuring in order of appearance:

I am sure there are some I missed or did not recognise. These guys probably subscribe to TechCrunch so I am not surprised that they do. But for them to be motivated enough to comment, you can imagine. I learned some things about Robert Scoble that I did not know. He actually kicks butt in an argument. Still not sure why they got involved, no one wins a flame war.

Very entertaining and well worth the read. Not often I recommend to skip the article and go straight to the comments. I am not about to make judgements about the merits of Arringtons choice of topics but suffice to say his readers have spoken. But from my perspective it doesn’t seem like it fits the TechCrunch mould. It says a lot about knowing your audience.

Failure at Spamming Class?

Spam comments continue to be an annoyance and yet I am amused at the same time. This spammer (or bot reject) must have failed at spamming class:

Hello All!I am sorry, i am not a spammer.

Followed by about 100 porn links. Please. The links gave it away.

Rooster’s Rail Milestone

Well the Rooster’s Rail reached a statistical milestone today. Nope not the kind of statistic you might be expecting.

As of just this moment in time Akismet has successfully blocked 10,001 spam comments.

10001 Spam Canned

Now I have talked about blog spamming methods before but I have noticed a distinct increase. The other thing is that this blog in this space is nine month old. Is that a reasonable amount of spam one could expect in that time-frame? Sure this blog is listed everywhere and it gets exposure due to the podcast but I am sure there are more popular blogs that get more than this blog. What about Scoble? He must surely have a heap.

I am starting to see less and less genuine comment flagged as spam and I am considering not bothering to check it for genuine comments. Sometimes I forget to do it for three or four days and I have 500+ to go through. I really don’t have the time it takes to do that.

So WordPressors what do you think, am I a target, or is this about normal? What are your experiences with spam volume? Does Akismet do the job right for you? Do you check your spam or just can it?I bet this post gets spammed.

In the time that I have composed this post there are 7 more waiting…

What Bit-Rate Do You Use?

Since my original post about bit-rates and podcasting, I have thought a lot about what bit-rate I should encode the Global Geek Podcast. So after a lot of thinking we are going to give 64bps at a sample rate of 44100khz. This should give a fairly good balance between file size and quality.

In my original post I did a very, very small survey on the podcasts that were on my PC at the time and I thought why not do a full on survey and get a better picture of what everybody uses. So this post uses a service that is new to me but maybe not to you called, ZOHO Polls.

This is a great site where you can create a great looking poll, people can come and vote and they can leave comments. We are not allowed to post the poll on WordPress, but if anyone wants to post it on their’s visit the poll and click the add to Blog link on the top right and copy and paste the HTML. A lot of these things use Java Script and we can’t use that because there are security concerns and it is an easily exploited and used to inject a modified script that might be nasty.

So sound off podcasters, I want your vote! If the format you use for encoding is not here then please choose the closest and leave a comment. I can modify the poll so if I a getting a common theme for certain formats I will add it in.

Click Here to Vote!

You Can Also Subscribe to the RSS Feed for the Poll Here

Why I Appear to have Two Different Lives

I have had a busy week at work this week. I have not had as many opportunities to blog as much as I would like. In addition to that Sebastian and I have been producing the podcast as well as organising some changes in that department which have been time consuming. However, today I received a comment about my blog from a real life person, which was nice.

I am sure my colleagues are sick to death of hearing about my supposed “hobby” which sometimes feels like a second job. But I have to say I still enjoy it. I did not really think that many people outside of the blogosphere really got the idea of blogging, podcasting or the on-line community. But today I was proved wrong, to a degree. Not only that it was from a source I thought most unlikely.

Secretary BirdWhile I talk mostly with those that I work directly with and they know a lot about what I do in this forum, I do talk to other people about it. Indeed I will talk to anyone that will listen! I can’t help it I am a fanatic. Anyway, as some of you know I am a nurse in a busy operating theatre. We have two tireless secretaries that work at the “front desk”. They are tops and are crucial to the smooth running of our department. Well, I arrived at work today and I was there not five minutes and one of the girls (is that politically correct? Sorry if it is not) came up to me and straight off the cuff told me that they went to the “Rooster’s Rail” last night and had a poke around. They had also paid a visit to an article that they liked and had touched them. Wow! I felt very humbled by the comment and encouraged. But the thing that interested me the most was the fact that this person said that it was like reading about a different person. Or a side to myself that they did not know existed. That I came to work and I had a front of professionalism and that behind that they did not realise that there was another person.

Just a mention about the picture. Totally unrelated to this post. I tried to find a cool, funny cartoon of a secretary but could not find one that A: was not porn and B: you did not have to pay for. So I got a picture of a Secretary Bird (there are some other great shots of birds there as well, check them out on Flickr) and chucked it up there. The reason for the bird? Well as Seb said “that bird looks like it would kick your arse”. I saw them on a telly show and trust me they would, they can kill and eat venomous snakes! On with the blog…

I am glad that they “saw” this other person and that they realised that I was something other than a nurse. While I like to keep my professional life very separate to my on-line community, my blog and podcast, I realised that I have lost some of my blogging anonymity. I am not sure what I think of that. I don’t mind but do I have to think about what I write here? I would like to think that I will continue on and be happy that people are reading my blog. I guess the other thing that I might keep in the back of my mind is the fact that this person admitted that they had visited the rail, what about those that don’t tell me. Does my boss check my blog to make sure I am not slandering anyone or saying things I should not? Not that I would, but to other bloggers out there that like to keep their private life private, it is not as private as you might wish it to be.

I have a number of motivations for keeping my on-line life separate (you will notice that I did not say private). One is that what I do for a living is remarkably different to what I do here. In real life I am a Registered Nurse, a senior member of staff and hold a position as a Level Two in our department. I work in an operating theatre where we do hundreds of operations a month. I scrub for cases (you know… when the surgeon says “Knife!” – I am the one that hands it to him or her) and manage the floor after hours. I don’t know that you can get much different. The other thing is that because of the work that I do and that I work for the government I have to cautious about what I say. I can not blog about operations that I might have scrubbed for or patients, it is illegal. The other thing is that I will not talk about people that I work with, that would be asking for trouble as well. This is one of the few times I will mention what I do or people that I work with. But this time it has context and I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter. Sebastian has often asked why I do not let the two parts of my life mix and I hope that this helps him and others understand that.

That aside, I was delighted to get a comment in real life. To actually see a persons reaction to what you have done was great. I would not mind if anyone that I work with came here, I am proud of what I am doing and after all this is a public platform. However, think twice before you say something on a blog you might regret.

A special thank-you to Rebecca, you are most welcome to come back anytime. I hope you like the person that you did not know existed.

Obligatory Non Conformism

Today, well yesterday Sebastian posted a story on his blog. The post was essentially about Skype spam. Anyway the story got put up on Digg and ended up on the front page. Sebastian has experienced a pretty big jump in traffic on his blog, to say the least. For Sebastian this has been a big confidence boost, there is however, more to the story than that.

If I were him I would be shit scared about what I would write next. To that end I ask this question; does the idea of social networking and peer review put undue pressure on bloggers, authors, writers or anyone that produces any sort of public content, to follow everybody else and produce what people want to hear because they get noticed.

This is such an easy way to respond to "being noticed" or to have something admired by others. Or to have someone of influence say that you have produced something of value. Do I appease these people and everyone else or do I just keep doing what I want to do because that is what I am enjoying doing? Tough questions, for me I think it would be hard. We all look for confirmation, acceptance and respect within the world in which we live, and definitely within our peers and those people that we regard as our "audience".

That caused me to think about how this type of notice generates this kind of pressure and what type of "surfer" is the average "Digger". The only way I can judge that is to think about the way which I look at articles posted on Digg. I look at the catchy title of the article, if it takes my fancy or I think it is news worthy, I click it. I might read the whole thing I might not. I then click the back button (I might Digg it I might not). It might have just be morbid curiosity that caused me to click the story in the first place and not even wanting to Digg it in the first place. Or it might have been the comments on the story that made me have a look. More so the article title may have caused an emotive response in me that made me read it, nothing to do with who wrote it or what it was about or how well it was written.

So is the average Digger a discerning surfer? Maybe some are. Those who are will go back to those sites that are worth a second look. That is the challenge that confronts the Dugg. "I am playing the big leauge here, I will have to write something that will be popular enough so that I keep these readers coming back". So with the pressure that is exerted by the average in-discriminating Digger he or she leaves in their wake a blogger (or whatever) who is feeling the heat somewhat. Therefore, is the average Digg turning our Blogosphere into a tabloid dynasty that has zero content? Does it then become tag city that loses it's way, battling over the meager offerings from the few Digg etal. sites that are out there? I think that this entirely possible due to the peer pressure factor. However, I think that there are those that will stand out once the bubble has burst. That means that we need to learn to write for ourselves, as Sebastian would say we need to "be the ball…".

I do not promote my blog much. For me the whole thing is for enjoyment and because I like it. Occasionally, I get a good story that talks about some new idea or news and I get a few more hits but nothing that special. But I know that more people read my blog today on a day to day basis than did a month ago. For that I am very grateful. I am happy to just blog when I want to, about whatever I want to, when I want to. For me that is enough.

How would I cope with "attention"? I really could not tell you because it is not something that I think will happen. For that reason I am not sure what I would do, say or write. Don't get me wrong I would absolutely love it and enjoy the experience especially the bit where your hits go up by the hundreds every couple of minutes, that would just be cool to watch if nothing else! Yet I would like to think I still had an obligation to blog about what I wanted to and still compelled to report that which had merit, regardless of pressure or the need for acceptance.

It may seem like I am flamming Digg in all this but in reality there are people, blogs, content, news items, videos [add mediums here] that should be aknowledged, admired, respected, and commented on within this community. Due to the very nature of the community and peer review this can not be censored, vetted or moderated and that is the way it should be. But the character of the person is tested to the limit in the wake of being Dugg in a big way. The challenge then is to conform or to be an Obligatory Non-conformist.

Because fireworks are wonderful, but they don't happen every day. True fulfillment comes from the tree that you planted as a seedling that is now big enough to hang a swing from for your children.